Pulaski County is its own worst enemy. That was the theme of the State of the County Economy Address delivered by Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathan Origer Tuesday. “This speech is supposed to be about the state of the Pulaski County economy, but ultimately, our problems are not economic,” he said. “They’re not even just about our fiscal health. It is time to admit what I have long been loath to acknowledge. The underlying problem hurting Pulaski County is cultural.”
Origer said the current debate on the future of the Pulaski County Courthouse is a good example of both the county’s failure to invest in its own future and its inability to argue important issues civilly. “It’s deeply dispiriting to see people take to Facebook, anonymously, behind the cover of a Facebook page, accusing our current county leadership of being equally culpable for the state of affairs because they’ve not implemented small-scale security and safety improvements or pushed for better regular maintenance,” Origer commented. He said that while he’s deeply sympathetic to those fighting to save the courthouse, it isn’t fair to blame county commissioners who’ve been in office for two years for structural problems that have been systematically ignored for decades.
Origer added that last year’s wind turbine debate revealed similar cultural problems. “The way we handled that situation, with the plan commission eventually recommending a complete ban on wind turbines against legal advice, after being bullied by a contingent of vocal, disrespectful opponents, many of whom don’t even live in this county, just reminds us of our apparently constitutional inability to deal with heated issues maturely.”
Origer said Pulaski County is falling short of his vision of “Mayberry 2.0.” “Unfortunately, rather than taking our lead from Andy, Barney, and Aunt Bee, we all too often behave more like we’re denizens of South Park, Colorado,” he said. “If we want to be a healthy community, then we need to fix our culture. We need to fix ourselves.”
Origer did highlight some economic successes over the past year, including a new plastics manufacturer, expansion of existing businesses, and downtown revitalization efforts in Francesville and Medaryville. Some challenges include BraunAbility’s plans to move its headquarters to Carmel, along with high income taxes and a declining population. Origer said the county has been losing about 100 people a year, since the 2010 census.